Human Rights advocate, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) on Monday rebuked critics of President Muhammadu Buhari’s bail-out funds for state governments owing workers’ salaries.
He spoke at the University of Ibadan Community Forum Interactive Session organised for the 13 candidates vying to replace the institution’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Isaac Adewole.
The lawyer, who played the role of a moderator at the event, also challenged the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to ask questions about the N1.3tn intervention fund promised by the past government, out of which he said only N200bn had been released since 2013.
While faulting those criticizing Mr. Buhari’s ‘bail-out’, which would go a long way in ameliorating the plight of civil servants in states owed several months of salaries, Falana asked them where they were when the Federal Government doled out over N7tn as bailout for the ruling class in the last five years, but ended up spending the money for personal purpose.
He said, “The labourer deserves his wages and anybody who is challenging the decision of the President as to the bail-out must have his head examined. Rather, we should be challenging the bail-out that has been given to the ruling class in the last five years, which is over N7tn.
“In the last five years, N780bn was given to the Bank of Industry to revitalise our ailing industry. Where are the industries? N200bn for Aviation Intervention Fund; N200bn for Agriculture Intervention Fund; N100bn Textile Intervention Fund; and N213bn to those who bought Power Holding Company of Nigeria, who are currently giving us darkness.
“Over N7tn has been given to our parasitic ruling class in the last five years and that is why the university must join issues with the ruling class. They should tell them that the country is not being governed well.
“The Federal Government promised an intervention fund of N1.3tn for the revitalisation of the universities but only released N200bn in 2013 just to call off the strike and since then nothing has been released. The University of Ibadan must ask the government relevant questions”.
Falana also urged the next VC of the institution to allow democratic student union in the school.
He said, “In the area of students’ unionism, I’m going to appeal to this university administration or whoever is taking over from the current Vice Chancellor to consider what is going on in Abuja, particularly the last outing by the House of Representatives’ members when they were fighting aimlessly and meaninglessly over the mace”.
In apparent reference to the crisis playing out in the National Assembly, the legal luminary said nowhere in the Nigerian Constitution is the mace recognized as the symbol of authority of the legislature.
“Mind you, I think there are law professors here, in the entire Constitution of Nigeria, there are 320 sections, nowhere is mace mentioned. It is part of the old parliamentary system. What the Constitution says is that the House of Representatives shall meet or convene once it forms a quorum. One-third of the membership is the quorum.
“The point I’m making is this, if you do not allow students and our children to practise democracy in the true sense of the word, they will end up in the National Assembly boxing themselves”.